Time working hard is NOT always time well spent

Time Working Hard 2

Time Working Hard

//Photo Courtesy: The Transatlantic//

I’ve always considered myself a hard worker. Whenever I have to dig in and get shit done, I’m up for it. Bring. It. On. I think a part of it has to do with being genuinely excited about work. I love being busy, and despite the bad boyfriend jobs of the past, I love getting to work on new things.

But I was reminded recently that just because you work hard, doesn’t mean you always work best.

What I mean by that is this: have you ever spent hours, days, or weeks on a project at work – you practically bought out Starbucks staying caffeinated to complete it – only to be told later that it was never presented to the client? Or, that the company will sit on it for another quarter?

As a freelancer and business owner that experience is magnified. I once spent a disgusting amount of late nights (I still have nightmares) slaving over a project that at the end of the day, barely paid my rent for a month. Was I working my ass off? Absolutely. Was I spending my time wisely and working towards my goal of being a savvy business owner? Hell no.

I’ve realized that while there’s power in working hard, there’s even more power in knowing which work is getting you closer to your goals, and which work isn’t.

I know a lot people who work hard – and many of those same people have amazing goals. But year after year I watch them continue to work their pa-tooties off, but come no where close to the goals they set for themselves.

So what sense does that make?

About as much sense as it made for me to dedicate all my time and energy to one under-paying client, when I could have split up that same effort into finding multiple well-paying clients.

Now of course, part of life is making mistakes just like that. It’s the only way we learn just how valuable our time is when it comes to building the career we want. However, if I could spare you, even the slightest bit of pain, I will. Because I’m good like that.

Here’s how to make sure your time working hard is ALSO time well spent:


Always have a number.

Whether you just graduated from college or have been working for decades, you should always have a “number” in mind. This number, be it an hourly rate or yearly salary, should reflect what your time is worth when you’re working at your very hardest. I know, it’s awkward to directly correlate your time with a monetary figure. But trust me, once you can clearly and appropriately (more on that later!) articulate your value, the hours spent on a project or in the office become more meaningful. And remember, having a hard limit – like not working below a certain number – is perfectly fine.


Identify the ROY (Return On YOU).

This has everything to do with how your work directly translates to your goals. It’s a simple cost-benefits analysis. For instance, if you’re presented with work you know will take up a lot of your time, but will get you experience in a field or department you’re more interested in – do you suck up the long hours and work your ass off? You sure do. The benefits outweigh the cost. With every project or assignment you get, be able to identify how working that hard (cost) will help you achieve your career goals (benefit). If it doesn’t, then perhaps it’s not worth your time.


Check yourself. 

Every so often, your soul needs a little gut check. Sometimes we get too wrapped up in working long and hard for our clients or companies, that we forget what we’re actually working for. Ultimately, the time you spend working should be valuable and purposeful to you. So when you’re in the middle of a workday or project take a minute to yourself to think. Check in with yourself and evaluate if your time is being well spent doing what your doing.

Checking in regularly does a couple things: 1. It keeps you mildly sane, which is always helpful. And 2. It allows you to fix something that isn’t working before it’s too late. If I had been honest with myself about the out-of-control client project earlier on, then I may have handled it differently and saved myself the grief.


So how do you spend your hard working hours?  Could you work more wisely?